LATER ALLIGATOR-LOUISIANA ROCK AND ROLL.

LATER ALLIGATOR-LOUISIANA ROCK AND ROLL.

Given the amount of music that’s released on a weekly basis, finding time to review everything isn’t easy. Often, some releases get overlooked in the process. This I discovered recently, whilst looking through two mountains of albums. They contain just some of the recent releases I’ve received. Within these two mountains, are a pile of albums awaiting a review. Nearly every musical genre is represented. There’s everything from blues, disco, house, psychedelia, rock and world music awaiting a review. So gradually, I’m going to work my way through this backlog of releases. The first of this backlog I’ve decided to review is a recent release from the prolific reissue label Fantastic Voyage, Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll. It’s a double-album, featuring fifty slices of what’s described as “a lip smackin’gumbo of rockin‘ musicality.” Sounds good to me, so let’s see if the music matches the hype.

Fantastic Voyage have recently become one of the most prolific reissue labels, specializing in reissuing everything from blues, rock and roll, surf music, jazz and just about every other musical genre you care to mention. Often, their releases focus on one part of America, with New Orleans, Texas and Louisiana being the focus of their attention. For Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll, Fantastic Voyage have called upon the services of compiler DJ Jailhouse John Alexander, who presents the Wild Wax Show. John has dug deep into his collection, coming up with an eclectic selection fifty tracks. There’s everything from R&B, rock and roll, country and boogie represented on the two discs. Many of these tracks are from well known names, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Dale Hawkins, Fats Domino, Champion Jack Dupree, Huey “Piano” Smith and even a young Dolly Parton, before she found fame and fortune. Sitting side-by-side with established artists, are some less well known artists. This includes contributions from Johnny Jano, Chris Kenner and Red Smiley. So Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll looks like a tantalizing taste of Louisiana’s rich musical heritage. Is that the case though?

DISC ONE.

With twenty-five tracks to choose from, choosing just a few isn’t easy. Some, however, pick themselves .It’ll come as no surprise that one of the giants of rock and roll opens Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll. Piano pounding Jerry Lee Lewis’ Lewis Boogie was a B-side to The Return of Jerry Lee Lewis, which was released in 1958 on Sun Records. It’s also one of the highlights of the Disc One’s highlights. It seems even The Killer’s B-sides were better than most peoples singles. However, The Killer isn’t the only big name on Disc One.

Dale Hawkins’ is best known for his hit single Suzy Q. My Babe shows there’s much more to his music. It was written by Willie Dixon, and features Roy Buchanan on guitar. Released on Checker Records, this shows Dale at his best, fusing blues, country and rock and roll. Bobby Charles found success at Chess Records, with singles like Later Alligator, Laura Lee and Time Will Tell. Take It Easy Greasy wasn’t a single though. This was the B-side of Time Will Tell, released on Chess Records in 1956. Although just a B-side and released early in Bobby’s long career, it’s since become a minor swamp pop classic and is just one of many written by Bobby. While these tracks show artists at the height of their success, one track is a taste of an artist before fame came their way. 

One interesting inclusion is Dolly Parton’s Puppy Love, released in 1959 is very different from what she’d later release. What it does show is a glimpse of what was to come. Eight years later, in 1967, Dolly would make her commercial breakthrough. While Dolly Parton is one of the biggest stars on Disc One of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll, it’s the lesser lights that contribute some of the other highlights.

Among the less well known singer are Texas born, Harry Choates. He released Louisiana Boogie in 1950, making this one of the oldest cuts. It showcases his own brand of fiddle boogie, where he mixes folk, country and Cajun music. Tibby Edwards is almost unknown outside of Texas and Louisiana. This is something a shame considering how talented he was. His music was influenced by Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzel. Flip, Flop and Fly, a cover of the Big Turner song, sees Tibby change tack, combining rock “n” roll and rockabilly. This isn’t the only fusion of styles on Disc One. Indeed, Al Ferrier’s Kiss Me Baby sees Al fuses an irresistible combination of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B on this 1959 cut for Rocko. Some of the tracks didn’t find the commercial success they deserved. One especially, stands out.

Gene Wyatt’s impassioned please on Lover Boy are another of the hidden gems on Disc One. Released in 1957 on the Ebb label, Chess Records were offered the chance to release this track. They passed up the opportunity and since then, this track has lain undiscovered. Its inclusion here, shows what Chess turned down. Who knows what might have become of Gene Wyatt is things had turned out differently?

Among the other tracks that deserve a mention on Disc One are Johnny Ray Harris’ Cajun Weekend, released in 1960. It seems Johnny was just a few years too late in releasing this self-penned track. Maybe two or three years earlier and things might have been different, but this was one of three singles he released on his own Ray label. Jerry Kennedy’s angst ridden Teenage Love Is Misery, released in 1958 and Al Terry’s feisty, sassy Watch Dog are two other tracks well worthy of a mention. They’re among the hidden gems that are given a new lease of life on Disc One of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll.

Disc One of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll combines a mixture of well known and lesser known artists. Although the title refers to the music as rock and roll, that’s too narrow a description. There’s everything through blues, boogie, Cajun, country, R&B and rockabilly on Disc Two. From the track-listing to Disc Two of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll, it looks like the music will be just as eclectic. The only difference is more big names feature on Disc Two.

DISC TWO.

Indeed, there’s big names aplenty on Disc Two of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll. Fats Domino, Dale Hawkins, Huey Piano Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and Champion Jack Dupree. Rather that start Disc One with a bang, it’s Dave Bartholomew’s take on the standard When The Saints Go Marching In. Released in 1954, rock “n” roll, jazz and blues combine, while Dave delivers the vocal with a sassy swing, bringing new life into an old song. Bobby Charles’ Later Alligator is a slice of driving rock “n” roll, released in 1955. It too swings, complete with rasping, growling horns aplenty. Fats Domino doesn’t let the side down with I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Some Day, released in 1959 on Imperial. Although it’s catchy, it’s not as full-on as Later Alligator. Still, it’s a reminded of just how talented Fats Domino was. While it lacks the energy of some of Fats’ other cuts and is a more subdued song, this can’t be said of three songs.

Champion Jack Dupree’s Shim Sham Shimmy is almost an explosion of energy and joyousness. Released in 1954, this is rock “n” roll, boogie woogie and blues rolled into one, with Champion’s vocal a sassy, snarl. Jerry Lee Lewis pounds his piano on Jamabalaya, delivering the definitive version of this track. Released in 1958 on Sun, it’s a track that’s totally timeless and is one of the highlight of Disc Two. So too is Dale Hawkins’ Suzie Q, which was released in 1957. Since then, Suzie Q has become synonymous with Dale. It features song searing guitar licks from a fifteen year old James Burton as blues and rock “n” roll unite.  For anyone yet to discover the delights of Huey “Piano” Smith and The Piano Clowns, then High Blood Pressure released in 1957, is the perfect introduction. Here, rock “n” roll, boogie woogie piano and growling horns play their part is this delicious fusion of genres. Like Disc One, its not just the big names that are responsible for the best tracks on Disc Two.

Proof of this is Ray Vict and His Bop Stoppers’ We Gonna Bop Stop Rock. Released in 1957, rock “n” roll and rockabilly collide, for two tantalizing minutes. Like so many artists on this compilation, commercial success eluded this track. The same can be said of Chris Kenner’s horn driven slice of R&B Sick and Tired. John Fred and His Playboys’ 1958 single Shirley, is full of poppy hooks as rock “n” roll and R&B are fused seamlessly. Hook laden, catchy and like a walk down music’s memory lane, it had so much going for it. Just like the other two tracks, why this track wasn’t a commercial success seems strange? Mind you, I could just as easily say the same about my final choice from Disc Two of Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll.

In many ways, I’ve kept the best until my last choice. Margaret Lewis’ Cheaters Never Win reminds me of Patsy Cline. Both women have similar voices, which bring to life the hurt and heartache in lyrics. Here, blues and country combine, as Margaret delivers one of the most heartfelt and emotive vocals on Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll.

Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll features fifty tracks that cross the musical genres. Describing it as rock and roll, like the title does, is something of an understatement. There’s much more to discover on Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll. This includes blues, boogie woogie, Cajun, country, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly. These tracks are from a mixture of well known and lesser known artists. Mostly, the quality of music doesn’t waver, with familiar faces and hidden gems aplenty awaiting discovery. Not only does Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll feature fifty genre-sprawling tracks, but features lengthy and informative sleeve-notes from Lucky Parker. All this costs just £7, €9 or $10, making Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll one of the real bargains of these recession hit times. Whether you’re a veteran or newcomer to these genres of music, there’s plenty of quality music that’s not unlike a musical trip down memory lane, before Elvis, The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Unlike so much music released since the music on Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll, much of the music on the two discs is absolutely timeless. Indeed, Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll is voyage of musical discovery that could very well lead to a lifelong love affair with music from Louisiana. Later Alligator-Louisiana Rock and Roll might just be a first date, but won’t be your last. Standout Tracks: Dale Hawkins My Babe, Harry Choates Louisiana Boogie, Huey “Piano” Smith and The Piano Clowns High Blood Pressure and Jerry Lee Lewis Jamabalaya.

LATER ALLIGATOR-LOUISIANA ROCK AND ROLL.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: